Goddesses of wisdom:
Lakshmi Pratury and Mallika Chopra
The spiritual wisdom of India was well-represented at the IdeaCity conference in Toronto, June 16-18, 2010. Mallika Chopra (daughter of Dr. Deepak Chopra and founder of Intent.com) and Lakshmi Pratury (TED India conference organizer, India-U.S. relationship builder and organizer of the upcoming INK conference in India) both spoke about taking a positive and proactive approach to life. They are both of Indian origin or ancestry and both live in California — and both told stories about their grandmothers. But it was the essence of Indian spirituality and wisdom, which they shared and embodied, that made them stand out, for me, among the many stellar presenters at the conference.
Spiritual wisdom: redefining success
When Lakshmi Pratury took to the stage, she made a very strong impression — and it wasn’t just because she was wearing a hand-crafted sari. Lakshmi personified the ideas and values that she talks about and works so hard to promote. She spoke from her heart, openly, warmly and honestly; she told stories about her family; she was by turns funny, emotional and passionate. She was authentic. She was in the moment.
Lakshmi is of course the goddess of wealth and abundance in India, and Lakshmi introduced her talk by introducing Lakshmi and talking about concepts of wealth and success, and how it’s usually measured by dollar figures and lists—lists that don’t include very many women.
“I ask people, Tell me one thing you’ll take with you to the grave,” she said. “It’s never, ever been the all night I stayed up at night writing that business plan. One of my favourite quotes is: ‘Even when you win the rat race you’re still a rat.’”
“Life ought to be measured not in the number of breaths you take, but in the number of breathtaking moments. We should all aim to be billionaire of moments.” Lakshmi’s advice for accumulating moments faster is this: “If you influence someone’s life, and they tell you, you get to bank all their moments.”
Lakshmi’s obsession is to redefine success. “There are women leaders in India, they’re there. Billionaires are there, it’s just that we don’t recognize them.” Lakshmi spoke about an eight-year-old boy in West Bengal who started a school in his backyard. And she spoke about her grandmother. “She was the Queen of her village.” Lakshmi’s story about the strength of the bond between them, and her grandmother’s strength, was very moving and brought tears to they eyes.
“Women in India count their moments much much better. I want to invite you to look at wealth in a completely different way so you can see that women are all over the world don’t need to rise to the top, they already are at the top. And they take everyone along with them. The journey is not about reaching the top, it’s about getting home safely – Women want the world to be a safe place. Let’s celebrate women who have courage as their currency.”
I had the good fortune to interview Lakshmi after her speech and ask her about the wisdom that India’s culture and spiritual traditions can offer the world; and about the upcoming INK Conference she is organizing in India in December 2010. One-to-one she was just as warm and effusive and I will write about her thoughts and the INK conference in another blog.
Spiritual wisdom: power of intention
Mallika Chopra’s presence on stage was a little more understated but nonetheless warm, positive and feminine. Her talk was about the power of intention to transform society and the world. She started by addressing her status as Dr. Deepak Chopra’s daughter, and talked about the influence of their family background in India. (I wrote about Dr. Chopra’s mission, and his influence on me, on my blog post Sharing India’s wisdom with the world.)
Her grandfather was a world-renowned cardiologist in India, a healer; but it was her Grandmother “who really represented the mythology, spirituality and consciousness of India that shaped my Father,” she said.
Mallika said her Grandmother was very confident and clear that she created her reality, and I loved the story she told about her. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was scheduled to visit their town in Punjab shortly after India attained independence. Mallika’s Grandmother decided that Nehru was going to leave the rose he wore in his lapel in their town. After fussing with her hair and carefully choosing a sari, Mallika’s Grandmother, along with the rest of the family, joined the massive crowds lining the street to welcome the Prime Minister, one of the fathers of the Indian nation.
“As the car drove by, Nehru decided to get out and walk. After he walked about 20 paces, he stopped and turned around and looked at my Grandmother, who was a beautiful woman, took the rose from his jacket and handed it to her. She took a deep breath and lifted the rose up as literally millions of people watched and gasped and cheered.”
If you look at Dr. Chopra’s work, you see a combination of his Father’s medical background and his Mother’s belief in the power of consciousness and intention.
Mallika made everyone laugh by talking about how she and her brother were guinea pigs for his experiments. On a more serious note, he taught them to say, each day: “I am responsible for what I see, I choose the feelings I experience and set the goals I want to achieve; and everything that happens to me. I asked for, and receive as I have asked.”
In other words, they were taught to set intentions for their lives on a daily basis with the belief that they would happen – and this became the basis for Dr. Chopra’s work around the study of consciousness and showing the science behind intention as an organizing power to shape healing and our society.
After working to help set up MTV in India, Mallika realized the power of media to change the world. She has spent the last 10 years trying to think about using media to engage people in a positive way. After becoming a Mother, she found her voice, and wrote two books; more recently, she founded a website called Intent.com, to help people set their intentions to create the life that they want.
Mallika ended by asking people in the audience to “close your eyes, take a deep breathe and think about an intent – for yourself, for your community and for mother earth.” And she encouraged people to create a movement of positive, healing intentions.
Afterward, I had the opportunity to ask Mallika about the wisdom of India and her intentions for Intent.com, and I will share her wise words in an upcoming blog.
Both Mallika and Lakshmi spoke about the power of positive, knowing what’s important and taking responsibility. Their wisdom seems to come both from their Indian roots and also from being strong and graceful women who know who they are and what they stand for. I found them both to be very inspiring.